W. Va. GOP raises questions

Manchin wants the State Legislature to move quickly when it debates a proposed fix to the state’s election code. He’s embraced legislation that would allow him to call a special election this November to fill the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s seat. A primary would likely take place in August.

Manchin wants to appoint an interim replacement for Byrd by 5 p.m. Friday after the Legislature has completed its work.

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Republicans are worried the bill is meant to dissuade Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) from waging a campaign for Senate in a special election since it would require her to resign her House seat in order to run.

GOP suspicions have been amplified by the fact that the Democratic decisionmakers guiding the process so far — Manchin, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, state Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin and state House Speaker Richard Thompson — all have ambitions for higher office.

Manchin obviously has his eye on the Senate seat. But Tennant, Tomblin and Thompson are all potential candidates for governor.

In an interview with The Hill earlier this week, Capito sounded reluctant to resign her seat.

“I think I have a unique position in the [congressional] delegation,” Capito said. “I’m representing a different party and a different gender. And I’m the only one in the delegation reflecting the urgency of job creation.”

While she was critical of Manchin and the decisionmaking process over the state’s open Senate seat, which she called “contrived,” Capito noted her commitment to serve out her term in the House.

“That’s a commitment I made to the people of West Virginia,” Capito said.

Capito said she is still weighing her options and would decide how to proceed after the special legislative session. Among Republicans, Capito offers the party the best hope of defeating Manchin in a special election. She’s sitting on more than $500,000 in her federal campaign account, and given the electoral environment, Manchin is not a sure thing.

In a radio interview Thursday with West Virginia’s Metro News, state House Minority Leader Tim Armstead (R) said he worried the legislation gives too much power to the governor’s office to control the process.

“As I read it, it gives a great deal of discretion to the governor and the secretary of state to actually … modify provisions that are already in the code and procedures that are already in place,” Armstead said.
One possibility is that Republicans will attempt to amend the part of the election code that bars candidates from running for two offices simultaneously.

— Shane D’Aprile

'Gun man’ takes aim at Melancon and Vitter

State Rep. Ernest Wooton is the “gun man” in the Louisiana Senate race.

Wooton, a last-minute entrant who filed to run as an Independent just before the deadline on Friday, initially was seen as another thorn in the side of Sen. David Vitter (R-La.). But the state lawmaker may in fact end up taking votes away from Democratic Senate candidate Charlie Melancon, whom he’s called a friend for 35 years.

Wooton served as sheriff of Plaquemines Parish, which is in Melancon’s House district. He only switched to become a Republican in 2005, then switched to be an Independent to run for Senate.

“I was a Democrat most of my life,” Wooton said in an interview with The Ballot Box.

Wooton is known in political circles but does not have high name ID outside his legislative district. He plans to campaign with a broad message.

“I’m going after voters,” he said. “I’m going after Democrats, I’m going after Republicans, I’m going after independents, libertarians, communists, I don’t care what they are.”

Curbing gun control has been a major focus for Wooton. He sponsored a bill in the Legislature last year to allow “properly credentialed, concealed weapon permit holders to carry guns on college campuses.” It didn’t pass the House.

“Yes, I’m a gun man,” he said. “I think the Second Amendment’s always an issue. We’re making criminals out of people for living by the Second Amendment of the Constitution.”

Allowing employees to carry guns to work, he added, “is not a bad idea, either.”

“I grew up hunting,” Wooton explained. “My father bought me my first gun when I was 9 years old, but he taught me how to use it.”

Being the “gun man” in the race may help his campaign. “You got a lot of people with guns in the state of Louisiana,” he said.

—Sean J. Miller


Poll: John McCain ‘trouncing’ Hayworth

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will handily defeat primary challenger J.D. Hayworth unless there’s a dramatic shift in fortune between now and August, according to a new poll. 

McCain gets 64 percent of the test vote compared to only 19 percent for Hayworth in a new Rocky Mountain Poll by the Phoenix-based Behavior Research Center.
Navy veteran Jim Deakin (R), meanwhile, gets 5 percent, with 12 percent of respondents undecided.

Hayworth’s appeal to Republican primary voters has dropped steadily since April, with his support shrinking from 28 percent to only 19. McCain’s TV ads may have played a part in that drop. The senator has run three TV spots since June 23 slamming the former congressman for being a “huckster.”

With early voting set to start July 29, Hayworth won’t have much time to turn things around. His best opportunity will be this weekend, when the three Republicans debate on Friday in Phoenix and on Saturday in Tucson.

But even a strong debate performance may not be enough to salvage Hayworth’s challenge.

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Independents who plan to vote in the Aug. 24 GOP primary overwhelmingly back McCain over Hayworth.

McCain’s only concern is his soft job-approval rating, which could spell trouble in the general election. In the survey, 43 percent of Republicans rate McCain’s job performance as “only fair” or as “poor.”

In the overall electorate, 36 percent have a favorable view of McCain, while 22 percent have a poor view.

—S.J.M.

Miller and D’Aprile are campaign reporters for The Hill.  They can be found on The Hill’s Ballot Box, located at thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box.